Blithe reactions

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Blithe reactions

The United States’ tough reaction to North Korea’s latest missile provocation is pushing the Korean Peninsula into a potential military clash. After North Korea fired its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) — a Hwasong-15 — into the waters off Japan, the State Department mentioned the possibility of enforcing a naval blockade on North Korea’s maritime transportation. The blockade, aimed at cutting off some or all of the country’s external economic activities, including trade, is arguably the most powerful sanction aside from stopping oil supplies to a country.

However, a blockade is a double-edged sword. It could be useful in blocking the North’s channels for earning foreign currency needed to develop its nuclear weapons. The trouble is there is a possibility of an accidental clash between the U.S. Navy and North Korean vessels in the process of inspecting or blocking them. If such a clash is followed by retaliations from the North Korean military, it could lead to full-fledged war. The Trump administration’s resorting to such a strong measure clearly shows the gravity of the situation facing the peninsula.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s telephone call to Chinese leader Xi Jinping shortly after the missile launch to pressure Beijing to stop its oil supplies demonstrates how Uncle Sam perceives North Korea’s latest firing of an ICBM allegedly capable of striking the U.S. mainland, including Washington and New York.

Despite an unprecedented crisis unfolding before our eyes, the Moon Jae-in administration appears not to recognize the urgency of the situation. We wonder if the liberal government really regards the critical security issue as being secondary to the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon’s remarks prove it. On Thursday, he said that the most important job for the government now is to successfully stage the Winter Games in a stable environment. The Olympics coincide with a joint Korea-U.S. military exercise scheduled for next February.

The Moon administration even considered the idea of postponing the joint drill in order to encourage North Korea to participate in the games. However, as clearly evidenced in the North’s missile provocation, there is no possibility whatsoever of the recalcitrant nation voluntarily giving up efforts to improve its missile technology until Pyongyang is confident of its ICBMs’ capability to hit the continental U.S. Under such grim circumstances, the government is trying to turn its face away from ever-growing nuclear and missile threats in an attempt to encourage dialogue. That’s a serious mistake that could cost the security of our nation.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 1, Page 34
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